Another season, another reason...

With premiere week just about coming to a close, I think I can say that as I am now without HBO, the new season is going to seriously suck. Granted, I haven't seen the season premiere of the West Wing, but even with an exciting and actually undecided election on the way, I'm inclined to believe that the show should start winding down. Mind you, I am an official West Wing addict. I have every season that has been published to DVD, have watched every episode (except two) when they originally aired, and even purchased a DVR just in case I wasn't able to watch the show when it came on. Yet, as addicted as I am, and while I'm impressed with the show's ability to stay interesting with the defection of Tommy Schlame and Aaron Sorkin, I'm starting to think it's about time to call President Bartlett a lame duck and pass along the reigns of power to someone else. (Not to mention, with everything that's going on in the real world, what drama could the West Wing create that we haven't seen already: A war, a sagging economy, a terrorist leader on the prowl, presidential approval ratings that are going down quicker than some sorority girls I know, two simultaneous Supreme Court vacancies (yeah, yeah, O'Conner's staying on the Court until she has a replacement) including one created by the death of the Chief Justice, and not one, but two killer hurricanes in less than a month. Even with the finest mushrooms in all the land Sorkin couldn't have come up with that story line.)

NBC seems to have not only stuck with what it thinks worked, but tried to double up on the idea. Not only did NBC bring back Donny Trump's Apprentice, but it started a series for Martha Stewart's Apprentice too. I have to admit, Trump's Apprentice seems to bring back the sass of the first two seasons. The contestants are interesting, diverse and impressive. DT is in full snake-strike "you're fired" mode and sponsors have gotten in line to get their product placement on the show.

Martha's show, on the other hand, is weak. Really weak. While I could only stomach 2/3 of the program, I can say I saw enough to know I saw too much. First of all, Martha had the chutzpah to actually claim that she went to jail for her business. Now, I'm no expert on her case, but I'm pretty sure that she went to jail for lying to the federal government. So, unless she's claiming that she lied to the government to protect her business, rather than attempting to keep the profits from the possible insider/swing trading she likely engaged in, she's either a profound idiot or completely full of crap. And what was up with house arrest? I mean, is it actually some type of punishment when you have house arrest and you live in what she's got?

Rather than having two trusted business advisors, Martha has one advisor and her daughter. I mean, seriously, what does Martha's daughter know about the cutthroat world of business? How many times has she been concerned that Martha is going to fire her? And it's not like the girl is even a decent judge. While Martha a/k/a "Pushover" is wavering, her daughter spits out a "golly gee wilikers, this sure is a tough decision." The other advisor, who is the only person with any balls on the entire show (although like every male on the show, I have doubts that he will ever use them for more than really bad decoration) retorts back with, "I don't think so. This one is easy." He then proceeds to tell Martha what to do, which she follows to the letter. Yeah, this is exactly the business acumen that I look up to. But then again, I think anyone who looks up to this mass media marketing criminal seriously needs to reexamine their priorities.

However, the firing (if you can even call it that) was the worst part by far. Rather than Trump's aggressive, deliberate, and determined "You're fired." Martha goes into a discussion with her prospective firee that sounds like she's breaking up with him: "I just don't think you fit in [apparently conformity is a good thing at Martha Stewart Living]. I don't think this is going to work out." I thought she was going to finish with, "It's not you, it's me." Then she stands up, walks around the table, and shakes the firee's hand before sending him out the door. I was hoping I'd hear her yell, "Don't let the door hit you in the ass on your way out!" But I guess that wouldn't be "Martha." Of course, if Martha were a man when she was sent to prison, she'd have bigger ass-protection concerns.

Well, as if this whole dragged out firing scene wasn't lame enough, Martha then returns to her seat and (I shit you not) pulls out a piece of Martha Stewart Living letterhead and writes the firee a handwritten note to console him on his departure. Am I the only person who sees the irony in this? I mean, where, oh where, could Martha have gotten the habit of writing people handwritten letters? In fact, I'm sure she still has the Danbury Federal Correction Institute letterhead.

So, yes, the Apprentice: Martha Stewart is lame. Incredibly lame. The only value to the show would be to watch it with a lot of alcohol and drink every time you see Martha's house arrest ankle bracelet disguised by wardrobe. After all, she was still on house arrest during the filming of the show.

However, what agitates me the most about new crap like The Apprentice: Martha Stewart (other than that I wasted 38 minutes of my life watching part of it) is that innovative, unique, well-written shows that just have not found their audience are given the ax, while reality crap is left on the air. One example is Jack and Bobby which was on WB last season.

Jack and Bobby, created by Tommy Schlame, one of the great minds behind the West Wing, was about two brothers, one of whom would eventually become President of the United States. In essence, the show was a cross between the West Wing and Dawson's Creek. The show was well-written, excellently acted, and brilliantly cast. It dealt with teenage angst and serious contemporary issues. One of the most unique parts of the show was that you knew the beginning and the end, but discovered a piece of the line between the two in every episode.

In a moment of the "profound brilliance" for which television executives are known, some idiot at WB decided it would be smart to run a show that would appeal to West Wing fans against the West Wing. Well, unless people have a two-channel DVR, you can imagine what happened. That's right, West Wing fans wouldn't defect, even in a sub-par season. However, rather than try the show in a better time slot for a second season, WB just pulled the plug, taking an excellent show and throwing it on the scrap heap.

Of course, with the programming choices that WB considers worthwhile, I couldn't help but write to the company. That letter stated:

To whom it may concern:

I write to express my profound disappointment with your decision not to renew Jack and Bobby for another season. The show, one of the best written and most innovative since The West Wing was, quite simply, brilliant. Yet, despite it's superb concept, writing, and acting, you ran it against another political show with incredibly loyal watchers and, when those people didn't leave, you just dropped the show.

What is perhaps most disappointing is that you remain to run garbage like "Charmed" and "Reba" while canceling quality programming like "Jack and Bobby." In the future, when you have a fantastic television program, please give it a chance.


As evidence of my point, Seinfeld originally had dismal ratings in its first times slot, but NBC saw promise in the show, moved it to Thursday at 9 and it flourished into the most successful series of all time (possibly with the exception of MASH).

So a new season has begun. Unfortunately, it looks like it has begun with disappointment. At least we still have PBS...until the Corporation for Public Broadcasting goes under the knife.

Update: I have not heard back from WB regarding my letter. Shocker.


Another date which will live in infamy...

For the past four years of September 11th anniversaries, I have generally avoided the emotional stories. The touching personal dramas on television that recount that clear Tuesday morning. I think it's because the experience was so emotionally difficult the first time around that I don't want to force myself to deal with those emotions a second time around.

Instead, I watch the History Channel or the Discovery Channel and learn about any number of different things about the events of that day: How the architecture of the towers absorbed the power of passenger planes slamming into them, how the fuel from the planes ultimately caused the towers to collapse, how the New York subway system avoided flooding when the retaining walls of the towers began to fail. I think, by concentrating on those events from the left side of the brain, it helps me to avoid all the emotional baggage on the right side.

Today, I watched a special on the 9/11 Commission Report on the History Channel. And it highlighted portions of the report (which you can read more about by clicking on the link to the left). But there are some portions of the report and the documentaries I saw that bear noting, some of which were interesting, but most of which were quite disturbing:

  • The plane that went into the Pentagon was initially intended for the White House. Bin Laudin himself wanted to hit the White House, but when the hijackers couldn't locate the White House from the air, they directed the plane into the Pentagon on the other side of the Potomac in Arlington, Virginia.
  • The plane that went down in Pennsylvania was intended to hit the Capitol. While the loss of life would have been horrible, and the idea of not having that beautiful rotunda there would have been hard to comprehend, also disturbing is that Congress was in session on September 11th, 2001. So those brave passengers not only saved countless lives by sacrificing themselves, but, in a very real way, they saved our government, our democracy, and our way of life.
  • The Twin Towers actually resisted the impact of the two planes that slammed into them, as they were originally intended to do (although the largest plane at the time of the towers' construction was considerably smaller). However, the speed of the impact literally blew the fire resistance material off the metal in the towers and the burning fuel became so hot that it ultimately melted the metal of the buildings, causing them to collapse.
  • The impact of Flight 11 into tower 1 took out the elevator shafts and stairwells. So while many of the responders were focused on saving the people at the impact site and above, there was no way for those people to be saved in tower 1, so response would have been better focused on saving people in tower 1 below the crash site.
  • The impact of the plane into tower 2, however, did not take out all of the elevator shafts and stairwells, because the impact was in the corner of the building, not the center. However, information could not be communicated effectively and many people did not know that Stairwell Shaft A was available, leaving it considerably unused.
  • Firedrills in the WTC only required people to leave their offices and move towards the center of the building, so many people in the towers had never actually used the stairs before. While this may not initially seem to be a problem, the stairs were not uniform throughout and when the shafts were black with soot and smoke and electricity was out, the failure to practice leaving the building through the stairwells likely cost a number of people their lives.
  • Police and fire radios did not work properly in the WTC and there were so many different communication systems among first responders that it was entirely futile to attempt to communicate a single order because there was no way for all first responders to receive it.
  • The 19 hijackers entered the airport security system with little, if any, resistance. Although some of them actually set off metal detectors, some security officials allowed them onto the planes without assessing the reason the hijackers set off the detectors. Basically, to paraphrase one member of the 9/11 Commission, the hijacker could have had an AK-47 in his pants and security would have still let him through.
  • The planes scrambled to defend Washington, DC went over water into the Atlantic Ocean to defend the city. Because no one told the pilots that the threat was from civilian aircraft being used as missiles, the pilots assumed that they were defending the country from a Russian missile attack and went into the ocean to intercept the missiles. However, even if the planes were over Washington, it would have made little difference. The pilots were not made aware that Vice President Cheney had issued an order (from a secured bunker under ground) to down any civilian aircraft approaching Washington. Of course, the Vice President asserted that this order was made as a result of discussions with President Bush. However, President Bush, who was then on Air Force One was having difficulty communicating with anyone because Air Force One's communications systems were not working properly. (Whether the Vice President was acting without authority, because only the President can issue such an order, remains a debatable question, but there is little doubt that on September 11, 2001 the United States Government was acting after being decapitated.)
  • CIA translators provided severely flawed translations of classified documents from Arabic on regular occasions, and when an employee raised issue with the inaccurate translations, she was disciplined. When she raised issue with her discipline to those higher up the chain, she was fired. Her complaints may not have mattered because many CIA translators told her statements to the effect that, "America is getting what they deserve" or "Now America is going to see a little of what it dished out." Remember, the accuracy of a CIA translation can make the difference between actionable intelligence and an innocuous statement.

As a result of the failures of the communication, the failures in our security apparatus, and widespread systemic problems, the 9/11 Commission offered a series of recommendations to better prepare us for another terrorist attack, including, among many others, a centralized intelligence apparatus under a single Cabinet authority Intelligence Director, increased intelligence and counterterrorism Congressional oversight, disclosure of the amount of national security funding, and an information age revolution for intelligence and counterterrorism agencies. The vast majority of the recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission remain unaddressed to this day.

We should remember September 11, 2001, always.

But it's long past time for us to fix the problems that were exploited on September 11, 2001.


Fleecing of America...and a few other countries...

And now, the post I mentioned yesterday...

The other day I checked the traffic on my site and discovered, to my surprise, I was getting a lot of hits. Well, as you might have guessed from my many statements to that effect, I don't expect mounds of readership on this little corner of the internet. But, to my surprise, there were considerably more hits than expected over the last few months.

So I looked over the source sites of these hits and discovered a relatively consistent pattern. Apparently, I've garnered a little bit of internet fame. Well, maybe not me, just one of my experiences, Gone Phishing. Yes, it appears that what I will dub as the "kutiekylie scam" has hit the internet with full force.

Apparently, this little site has served readers, and some anonymous commenters (thanks ya'll...love the comments!!! And wow, from the UK!) as a bit of an internet consumer report. Well, I'm quite happy to help people from falling into scams. Entertaining a bit is nice too, but stopping people from falling into scams is also a plus. So, with one exception, the comments are open. Feel free to share your "BackSideBabe" stories. The more entertaining the better.

The exception you ask? No spamming. If you spam the comments, the comment will be deleted. Normally, I would never delete a bona fide comment. Good, bad, whatever. Spam, as with the lunchmeat, well, it's a different category altogether. Spam gets roundfiled.

With that caveat, comment away!

P.S. For you other Blogger bloggers, Blogger has added a word verification option that will, hopefully, reduce spam commenting (spamenting? commam? spamments?). Check it out here. Recent spam comments have led me to turn the feature on (freaks...). Hopefully, this little step won't stop readers (both of them) from making bona fide comments.


The best damn four cents an acre we ever spent...

I put together another post a little while ago about some recent increases in traffic I've seen (and after writing it I recieved another link here from PostModern Sass...Sass, you're the best!), but it just didn't seem right to post it. I'm sure I'll put up that post sometime soon, but there's something I needed to write that was more urgent.

Here's the thing. I was born in New Orleans. While my initial exposure to the city was less than two weeks (my father was actually flying to work in Baton Rouge waiting for me to be born so we could move), it's a city that is very near to my heart. My grandparents immigrated to New Orleans to flee the oncoming Holocaust in Europe. They had my mother and my aunt and both of them grew up on New Orleans. In fact, my mother didn't know that bars weren't open twenty-four hours a day until she moved away from the city.

We would go back often. I used to play on the steps of my grandfather's old New Orleans home. My grandfather was orthodox, so he would leave the television on during the Sabbath, because turning it on or off would violate the prohibition from working. So I would lie on my stomach on the carpet, my feet dangling in the air, my face propped up on the palms of my hands, annoying the crap out of my mother to let me change the channel.

I remember walking around the French Quarter with my grandfather. He would take me to his store in the Quarter where I had my pick of anything I wanted. My grandfather loved nothing more than to see his grandchildren smile.

I also remember one time when my parents came home to Baton Rouge from Mardi Gras. Usually, when beads are thrown from a parade float, they are thrown in groups and the beads seperate in the air. However, this time, the beads didn't seperate and my father caught the entire group of Mardi Gras beads and brought them home to me and my little brother. We still have pictures of my little brother and I wearing at least thirty sets of beads each, many of which extended from our little necks to the floor.

I spent hours looking at my mother's Mardi Gras albums. Not of pictures, but of dabloons, the coins that are thrown from the floats at Mardi Gras. My mother collected all the dabloons from Mardi Gras since she was a teenager. In those albums, I saw so many colors and so many themes of parades past.

I remember trips to the Fudge factory, where the men would take a cauldron of chocolate and pour it into a huge metal frame. They would exclaim, "TIME FOR FUDGE!!!" I think that fudge was what turned me into a chocolate addict.

And I remember going back to New Orleans years later, to visit my grandfather in a nursing home after his years of smoking finally caught up with him in as emphasema and stroke. And even though I knew then that he wouldn't be with us much longer, in the back of my mind, I knew that much of him died years before, in a New Orleans hospital, when my grandmother succumbed to a life with diabetes eight days before their only granddaughter was born.

Yeah, New Orleans is an important city to me.

So when Katrina hit South Florida, I was relieved that it was only a Category 1, and when it was forcast to go to New Orleans, and kept picking up power in the Gulf, becoming a Category 4, then a Category 5, then just barely a Category 4, I got worried. Really worried. It was like watching Andrew happen again, but to someone else. But Katrina wasn't Andrew. Katrina was worse. Much worse.

I was somewhat relieved this week when my cousin e-mailed me with a rundown of all my relatives from New Orleans and their whereabouts. I was relieved that they were out of the Lord of the Flies anarchy that has engulfed the city I've always seen as home. After thinking that Sass was a psychic, I started emailing my relatives to let them know that my family's houses and apartments were open to them for as long as they needed. Of course, with I-10 out of commission into the foreseeable future, who knows whether they could come if they wanted to. But whether they take advantage of the offer or not, I know how lucky they were and how lucky I am for still having them.

There are so many families and so many people with so many other memories of that bizarre and wonderful city. And so many of them are in need, of food, of water, of a place to sleep. And then there are those who have lost so much more.

Earlier today, I was spoke with a girl who was also from New Orleans, but who had spent her life there before moving to Florida for school. She explained that after calling her relatives and finding out they were fine, she started getting trickles of calls from friends. One of her friends called and she said, "I'm so happy you're ok. How's your family?" He responded, "We lost my dad." All she could muster in reply was, "I'm so sorry."

So, while I hope New Orleans and the rest of the Gulf coast, cities like Biloxi and Waveland and so many others, will rebuild. For some people, too many people, "rebuilding" will never be possible. "Reconstructing" would be all they could hope to do.

To do the right thing, go here or here or here or here . If you would like to help animals affected by Katrina you can go here or here.